A beautiful new 1,100-acre state park is set to open on the Widewater peninsula in late September. The park, which is bordered by both the Potomac River and Aquia Creek, is being built in three phases with a $43 million budget. It will feature recreational opportunities on water and land as well as provide educational opportunities. It will also preserve and protect the land on the peninsula, upon which Captain John Smith walked, and interpret its natural, historical and cultural resources.
“For a county that is bordered by so many bodies of water, Stafford has very little public access to the water. This park is going to bring more recreational opportunities to our residents as well as visitors,” said Stafford Board of Supervisors member Jack Cavalier, Griffis-Widewater District. “I am grateful to the Commonwealth of Virginia for recognizing both the need for a park as well as the need to preserve something that is irreplaceable. I am extremely grateful for the residents and Friends of Widewater State Park, which I am a member of, who advocated for this park.”
Phase 1A will be complete when the park opens in the fall. According to Paul Anderson, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation employee and steward for Widewater State Park, that phase includes:
- Two completed shelters (two more will be built later) one on the Potomac side and one of the Aquia side (Shelters may be rented by the day for $130 by calling 1-800-933-PARK);
- A full-service visitor’s center with a display area;
- Two restrooms, one on the Potomac side and one on the Aquia side;
- There will be two canoe/kayak launches, one on each body of water;
- Two completed playgrounds on each side;
- A paddle-in campsite that allows canoes/kayaks to follow the Captain John Smith Trail;
- Moreover, individual picnic pads that don’t need to be reserved.
The park has a non-swimming beach. Plans call for the construction of a floating dock for the Aquia canoe/kayak launch for handicap accessibility. Other phases also include a trail system to include a full-service campsite.
Supervisor Mark Dudenhefer, Garrisonville District, was a driving force for the park during his time in the Virginia General Assembly. He helped develop the master plan for the park and helped secure the funding for Phase 1A during the end of the economic downturn; actions which helped him win Virginia Association for Parks 2016 Legislator of the Year.
“I believed in this project, and I am glad Virginia and Stafford County worked together to make this happen,” said Supervisor Dudenhefer. “This park will help bring in the type of infrastructure and transportation improvements Widewater needs without destroying its character. As well, it will help reduce volume from other area parks, which are in high demand.”
Residents of Widewater have had a very positive reaction to the park, helping to create and facilitate Friends of the Widewater State Park (FOWSP), a 501(c)3 dedicated to assisting and supporting the park’s mission, operations and programs. They fall under the Virginia Association for Parks. Each of Virginia’s state parks has an associated “friends” group.
“Virginia State Parks are beautiful and are national and local treasures. Our goal is to advocate for the park, organize special events, raise money, schedule workdays and partner with local businesses to support the park,” said Michele Mahoney, President of FOWSP. “We invite anyone who is interested in joining us.”
FOWSP is looking for volunteers with skills in carpentry, gardening, and organizing volunteers, building trails, website design and more. There are opportunities for students fulfilling graduation service requirements as well. FOWSP may be contacted through their Facebook page at “Friends of Widewater State Park” or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Meetings are held the second Tuesday of every month at Widewater Fire and Rescue, 749 Widewater Road, Stafford, VA.